The 2013 GPS season was always going to be a big one. For starters, it was the first time in recent memory that the 1st XV and 2nd XV Competitions would be run as a two-round home and away tournament.
Sydney Grammar School, Sydney Boys High School and The Armidale School would not compete in the 1st XV or 2nd XV Competitions. Their 1st XVs would compete against the 3rd XVs of the other six schools.
2013 also marked the 150th year of one of its member schools, Newington College, who had devoted resources into building a successful 1st XV to celebrate the anniversary, and looked likely to repeat their championship 2012 season.
Scots College, after two years of finishing second, also had strong case for believing that 2013 would bring them their first successful rugby campaign since 1993. Their 2008 Year 7 intake did not lose a game until Year 9 and had progressed well since then.
The team that gave them that first loss in 2010 was St Joseph’s College. The famous rugby nursery had produced many quality teams since their last premiership in 2007 and they had high hopes that the silverware would return to Hunters Hill. It was about time: the Joeys Year 7 intake in 2008 had never seen their 1st XV win a Premiership.
St Ignatius College had a talented young team, but many expected them to struggle in 2013 and were more likely to return to the top in 2014.
The Kings School had lost many star players, but was never going to be taken lightly by the opposition.
And finally, Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) had a team full of tough and talented players, and after an outstanding season last year some believed they could challenge for the title in 2013.
However that was all at the start of the season.
In the first half of the season it soon became clear that the 1st XV Championship would be decided by the big dogs: Scots and Newington, who had recruited well.
The race for the bronze seemed to be between Riverview and Joeys, with View the favourites, since they had won their head-to-head match. Of the other two teams Kings seemed to have the bigger chance of avoiding the wooden spoon whereas Shore was weak, though brave.
In the second half of the season Joeys faltered and Kings rallied, leapfrogging Joeys to end up in fourth place.
The big game of the home-and-away fixtures was when Newington visited Scots at Bellevue Hill in Round 9. Scots had won in the first meeting – away at Stanmore – and were expected to win at home, but Newington put them away. This had them level at one loss each.
In Round 10 both teams won in their final matches of the season to share the 1st XV Championship.
Scots — Joint Premiers
The boys from Bellevue Hill became GPS Premiers for the first time in 20 years after at last-round victory at home. Whilst a loss the week before to Newington meant they had to share the shield, it was a fine effort regardless.
This Scots team was always going to be tough to beat, boosted by a superstar back line including Australian Schoolboys – fullback Andrew Kellaway and scrumhalf Mitch Short – and having one of the best forward packs in the competition in front of them.
Their ability to run the ball from their own 22 successfully, made for exciting viewing, and they were involved in the three best games of the season (Round 2 vs. Newington and both rounds vs. Joeys.)
Despite the loss of number 8 Angus Crichton, the Scots forward pack were damaging, led by replacement 8 Olly Kamp who had a cracking season. Finishing a respectable third in the 3rd XV Competition and Joint Premiers in 16As– with a big growth in the strength of their lower grade teams – Scots’ rugby is on the up.
A big congratulation to the Scots boys, and their captain Hamish Dunbar; they deserved to have one hand on the title.
Best players: 3 (points) Andrew Kellaway 2. Olly Kamp 1. Mitch Short
Newington — Joint Premiers
For their 150th anniversary, last year’s champions were always going to have a big year and they lived up to the hype to claim their third premiership in four years.
Their backs were near unstoppable, with the likes of Tepai Moeroa, Taane Milne and Joey Lussick starring each week. Whilst their backs were able to to cross the line continually, it was their mammoth pack that set the platform.
Captain Lachie Cannell and prop Vunipola Fifita were two of the best forwards going around this year. Whilst Newington draw a lot of success in the 1st XV competition, their rugby programme, as a whole needs to improve if they want to keep this streak going.
Regardless, I congratulate Newington on a successful 150th year.
Best players: 3. Joey Lussick 2. Tepai Moerea 1. Taane Milne
Riverview — Third
It was a surprisingly successful season for the boys from Lane Cove since 2013 was expected to be a development year for a much-hyped 2014 team.
Riverview was a side filled with young players. Their few Year 12 boys had to step up and Ben Hunt, Mike Kennedy and Tom Molloy all skippered the team at some point in the season.
When they don’t win a trophy, Riverview often measure their success on how they fare against arch-rivals Joeys. Since they won both the home and away fixtures they would be reasonably happy with how the season turned out.
It will be all smiles at St Ignatius heading into 2014 with a host of players returning, including Aus Schoolboy Hutchinson as well as Hosea Fotokuva, Bill Freeman and Jack McGregor. Riverview are looking hard to beat next year.
Best players: 3. Henry Hutchinson 2. Hosea Fotokuva 1. Tom Molloy
Kings — Fourth
Kings did well to finish off a slow start to the season with two wins in the last two rounds to finish fourth.
Although they were mostly ignored in rep selections, the boys all stepped up to finish the season off with some great footy.
Year 11’s James Kane and George Lehmann showcased their talent in some fine performances over the season.With these two and the likes of Hugh Yates and Daniel McQueen returning next year, plus a 16As side who were joint premiers, Kings look like they could challenge in 2014.
2013 was fairly successful for the Kings boys, with wins against Joeys and Riverview plus two good wins over a tough Shore side. This placed them higher up the table than many thought at the start of the season.
Best players: 3. Jack McCalman, 2. George Lehmann, 1. James Kane
Joeys — Fifth
It was not the best of season for the famous cerise and blue team. A 30% win ratio is the lowest it’s been in some years and was not expected at the start of the season.
Injuries hit Joeys hard, with 32 boys representing in the 1st XV throughout the year. This may have led to a team that just never fully gelled.
They missed too many tackles in the outside backs and let too many games slip away. On the positive side, captain Matt Sandell, selected for the second year by Aus Schools, had a tremendous season and was a huge motivation to his teammates. So was Aus Schools flyhalf Andrew Deegan who, for someone quite small, was one of the toughest players in GPS.
Both of their games against Scots were up there with the best games of the season, characterised by the work of a gutsy Joeys’ pack. Some may consider Joeys unlucky and if a few more calls went there way they could have finished higher up.
Whilst success wasn’t great in the 1sts, Joeys won the 2nds, finished 2nd in the 3rds and were joint-premiers in both 16As and 15As. From the 43 teams they fielded, they had 23 teams win their competitions.
Despite what many are saying, there does not seem to be anything wrong with Joey’s rugby. Players such as Koim Wingti, Will McDonnell, Connor O’Shea and Tim McCutcheon will lead a very strong side in 2014 and will be contenders for next year’s title.
Best players: 3. Matt Sandell 2. Andrew Deegan 1. Nic Pennisi
Shore — Sixth
Whilst they were the weakest side in this year’s competition, Shore did not deserve the finish the season without a win. They played a tough brand of footy and no team could afford to take them lightly.
Captain Jack Clancy led the team well, assisted by his twin Nic, and both had solid seasons. Outside centre Harvey Duncan was one of the most dangerous players in the competition and if he were part of a better team he may have gained rep honors this year.
Shore was also hit hard with injuries and just didn’t have the depth to last the ten rounds. A traditional powerhouse, Shore seems to have fallen behind since the game became more ‘professional’.
The 2014 age group have always been successful, but losing the two Clancys will be a big loss. Regardless, Shore still have the likes of Jum Woodhill, Paddy Oliver and Nathan Lucas returning in the forwards, and plenty of talent in the outside backs.
Many people in the GPS circle will be hoping 2014 is a much more successful year for Shore, who refuse to compete in the ”arms’ race”.
Best players: 3. Harvey Duncan 2. Jack Clancy 1. Angus Cooke
Click on arrow for 2013 GPS Headlines and the 2013 GPS XV on Page 2.